Celebrating Feminist Birthdays as a New Year’s Resolution
Making new year’s resolutions and writing them down in my diary was one of the joys I cherished while growing up. I stopped making new year’s resolutions after going through two major surgeries (open heart and brain) in my late twenties because it seemed pointless to make yearly resolutions in the face of what I saw as the precariousness of life. Daily and monthly survival was what I was hoping to sustain. Now many years have passed, and I have lived a relatively healthy life, though the weekly hospital visit has been a hassle. Still, I have not resumed my habit of making new year’s resolutions. In 2012, the year of the dragon, however, I have finally decided to make a new year’s resolution. My resolution is that I will celebrate as many birthdays of my feminist friends, colleagues, teachers, mentors, and scholars in religion as I can with deep appreciation of who they are and what they have done to make our world a better place to live for all of us, not just for a few groups of privileged people around the world.
While writing a brief response to feminist theologian Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s lead roundtable essay “Celebrating Feminist Work by Knowing It,” in the Spring 2011 issue of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, I realized how important it is to publicly celebrate birthdays of feminist scholar-teacher-activists in religion. As I wrote in my response, honoring feminist lifework through public birthday celebrations is “not simply to valorize outstanding individuals but also to remind us of our constant struggles, both internal and external, as we continue to engage in feminist work.” Celebrating feminist birthdays is indeed “a feminist practice that is based on the conviction that personal is political, for ‘personal’ is deeply historical, as it is formed and shaped within communities.” Furthermore, we need to publicly celebrate feminist birthdays because it encourages “transgenerational work against selective historical amnesia of feminist knowledge.”
As I continue to think about how to publicly celebrate feminist lifework, I want to raise the question of accessibility. To put it differently, how do we go about celebrating birthdays of “not only a few well-known feminists but also feminists from ‘all walks of life,’ regardless of age, institutional position, and location?” I ask this because not all feminist lifework has been publicly acknowledged and it is related to the issue of “the accessibility of feminist work . . . especially in relation to one’s institutional location and the dominance of English in knowledge production and reproduction.” Oftentimes feminist work that is produced in English and/or in other European languages “attains more accessibility and even visibility than work written and produced in non-European languages.” Thus, accessibility becomes an important issue in public celebration of feminist lifework.
With the issue of the accessibility of feminist lifework in mind, then, how do we publicly celebrate feminist birthdays? It is ideal if as many of us as possible can come together to publicly celebrate feminist scholar-teacher-activists’ birthdays loudly and proudly annually in one space. If this is not feasible, we still can do it locally in places where we are. We can share, or read together with our friends and colleagues, excerpts from a book or an article by the feminist teacher-activist-scholar whose birthday we are celebrating. We can retell their lifework in our classrooms and workplaces. We can also celebrate feminist lifework virtually. We can make an announcement of a feminist’s birthday and the significance of her lifework via Facebook or Twitter. We can write a blog entry about what her lifework has meant for us. Life is precarious. Because it is, we need to publicly celebrate feminist lifework fully, passionately, and boldly with no reservation. When each of us can celebrate one another’s lifework as feminist scholar- teacher-activist, we do not have to reinvent the wheel. By acknowledging and affirming each other’s lifework, we only need to continue the work of justice for the fullness of our lives that are intricately interconnected.
Here is an unfinished list of feminist scholar-teacher-activists whose birthdays are coming up soon in this year of the dragon, which began on January 23. Please help fill out the list from every corner of the world. And, be prepared to publicly celebrate our fellow feminist scholar-teacher-activists in religion!
 All quotations are from Nami Kim, “Celebrating Feminist Birthdays: Bringing Filiative and Affiliative Together,” Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 27, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 123–127.